Aliens are real. Flying saucers regularly land on Earth, occupied by armed and deadly creatures from other worlds. Unknown to the world at large, the military are fighting a secret war against them.
Devastro puts you in charge of a squad of soldiers armed with machine guns and attitude. You guide them around a series of missions, your aim usually being to take out aliens and their saucers. As well as unlimited machine gun ammunition, you can collect grenades for the demolition work (though shooting at fuel cannisters and even vehicles can produce the same effect).
Controls are mostly mouse driven, with the left button moving your troops and the right button telling them to shoot towards the cursor. You can chuck a grenade with the spacebar. That's about it - most other controls, such as boarding or exiting vehicles, are done with left clicks in the relevant places.
Older gamers looking at the screenshots may well be thinking of Cannon Fodder at this point. Even the latter's ability to split up your squad and leave soldiers on AI guard duty is present. While Devastro loses out slightly in comparison to its older stablemate, it has several features that make it more friendly to the casual gamer - Cannon Fodder's later missions could be infuriatingly difficult, whereas so far I've found that difficult missions in Devastro are usually a matter of changing your strategy.
Graphics are cartoon in nature, and characters are considerably bigger than their Cannon Fodder equivalents (which helps towards Devastro's greater user-friendliness). Grenades and other explosions feature a huge "BOOM" - quite literally! Aliens vary from little green men and floating brains to bullet-proof robots and big, round, fluffy, deadly things. The impression I get is that the aliens are inspired by a mixture of sci-fi sources including "Futurama" and "Mars Attacks!". Part of the fun with this game is spotting all the references.
There is a suitable range of sound effects to the game, from gunshots to explosions to the clacking footsteps of the robots and the bleating of the sheep. Yes, sheep! Music is limited to the title page, map and mission details screen - in-mission, there is no music.
Playability is further boosted by the usual options - failed missions can be replayed, games can be saved (up to ten slots are available for this) and one has a seemingly endless number of soldiers available for combat, though keeping them alive has the benefit of their skills increasing with each promotion. Bonus medals can also be collected that provide further promotions in-mission. One of the big challanges is to conserve your limited grenades and, sometimes, to try and take out multiple targets in one go with them.
There are a LOT of missions. I'm only halfway through them as I type this! So far I've faced down those aliens with machine guns, grenades, cars and a tank. I hope that last one makes another appearance! Missions have included collecting money and protecting sheep, as well as the usual blowing up of saucers and aliens. The various comments of the troops are brilliant, including lines from films (including "Ghostbusters") and numerous sci-fi references (such as a reference to "Plan 9"), and they add a surprising amount to the character of the game.
While Devastro is well crafted and has no serious issues I spotted, there were a few areas of concern. Some of the pre-mission discussions with the commander didn't work properly, with no text appearing - I still have no idea why, in game plot terms, I had a series of missions collecting money, and these sections often give out useful strategy advice. (We have been told by the developers that this has now been fixed.) The game also suffers from a lack of originality - it is identical to Cannon Fodder in many respects - and the aliens themselves could use a little more variety. These are fairly minor complaints, however, and I may find new enemies and new ideas in the upcoming missions. I have a little way yet to go.
Devastro is a great way to spend some free time. Quirky, fun and reasonably forgiving, it's easy to get into. Be warned though that there's plenty of blood (green and pink - no human blood is spilled!) so it may not be suitable or indeed very easy to play for little ones.
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